Myrna Lardizabal de Vera on August 31, 2012: Hello, Powerful Pinays!

For the YOUTUBE VIDEO of the actual speech, click here.

We have to change the image of “The Filipina!”

My sister, Councilmember Myrna Lardizabal de Vera, former Mayor of Hercules, California (June 2011-December 2011), future Vice-Mayor of Hercules, CA (2013), and future Mayor of Hercules, CA (2014), had written Marily Mondejar, President of the Filipina Women’s Network, about how the organization influenced her to pursue a life in public service.

Here is the unabridged version of her speech, which Myrna delivered during the Gala Event at the Stanford Court Hotel last August 31, 2012 to celebrate the 2012 Filipina Women’s Network’s 100 Most Influential Filipina Women of the US. Myrna is a 2009 awardee and I am a 2007 awardee.

Hello Powerful Pinays! I am Myrna de Vera, currently Council Member of the City of Hercules, former Mayor, 2011 and future Mayor, 2014.

Congratulations to all 100 Most Influential Filipina Women in the USA 2012.

Like you, FWN called to me to change the world for the better. I wouldn’t be where where I am now without FWN’s support and inspiration.

My sister, Lorna Dietz, dragged me to the FWN Summit in 2006. I was a rookie planning commissioner then, ready to quit my exploration of the political world. I wanted to crawl back to my safe simple life as a homemaker, taking care of my three sons and my husband, instead of struggling with the conflicts that politics bring on.

But at that Summit, Marily Mondejar pointed out how we Filipina in mainstream visible positions should take the opportunity to change the image of Filipina women in the USA by moving on to more visible positions of policymaking bodies. I realized then that what I had been called upon to do was not all about me. I had to think of the bigger picture — that what I did as a commissioner in the city was important and could change the perception of Filipinas in a more positive light.

Instead of quitting, I moved on to be the Chairperson of the Hercules Planning Commissioner in 2007 and 2008. In 2009, I was the Vice-Chair of the Planning Commission and recognized as one of the 100 Most Influential Filipina Women, Policymakers and Visionaries. I was really inspired by the panel speakers during that Summit, and most of all, I met Mayor of Davis, Ruth Asmudsen and Mayor of Colma, Joanne Del Rosario. Meeting them allowed me to imagine, I can be mayor too one day.

It happened sooner than I thought. On November 2010, I won a seat in the Hercules City Council. By January, I moved up to Vice-Mayor because then Mayor Ed Balico suddenly resigned. By June, I became the Mayor of Hercules because the relatively new Mayor Joanne Ward was recalled. I served as mayor during one of the darkest times in the history of Hercules.

One thing that still has stayed with me from the Summit of 2006 was Marily’s statement that when one googles the word “Filipina”, the results were dating and marriage sites of Filipina women for Foreign men. Out of curiosity, I wanted to see if that has changed six years later, and so today I googled the word “Filipina” and here are the top ten results:

Web Results
· 1. Filipino people – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Also, adjectives that have to do with women (e.g. “Filipina beauty”) are modified
to use the feminine form. In legal documents such as bank accounts and …
· 2. Filipina Dating, Filipina Singles, Filipina Brides & Filipino Women at …
Find a loving Filipina girlfriend by using our online Filipina dating site. Join now
to view Filipina personals of beautiful Filipina women and men in search of …
· 3. Filipina Dating – Filipinas for Love, Marriage, Romance and friendship.
Filipina Dating – Filipinas – Features filipina ladies looking for love, romance, and
penpals. Women girls from Philippines for marriage, friendship, penpal, …
· 4. filipina – YouTube
Aug 25, 2006 … there’s nothing like filipina sophisticated and innocent. kaya lang may mga filipina talaga na puta.. it’s no wonder why ang tingin ng …
· 5. Filipina
Feb 24, 2011 … Filipina is an online nonprofit organization for Filipinas who are spouse, fiancee or engaged to Non-Filipinos. Prospective members were …
· 6. Pure Filipina: Dating Site with Chat
Pure Filipina is a dating and friendship site. Designed for Philippine women to
meet and chat with local and foreign men.
· 7. Filipina Womens Network
Filipina Women’s Network (FWN) is the non-profit professional association for
women of Philippine ancestry living in the U.S..
· 8. A Filipina Girl For You
Meet some sweet Filipina girls from small Philippine towns on the peaceful, quiet
Island of Negros Oriental through letters and pictures.
· 9. Philippines dating, Filipina Dating, Filipina Singles, Filipina Brides …
Philippine chat and date beautiful Filipina women for Filipino love, Filipina dating
and Asian dating. Browse Filipina singles for Philippines dating and …
· 10. Christian Filipina
Quality Filipina Dating Site. Meet Sincere, Marriage-Minded Women from Asia.

Notice that 8 out of the 10 top ten results are devoted to Filipina women in relation to marriage or dating. Only 2 sites are non-dating sites. Wikepedia is number 1 and Filipina Women’s Network Number 7. Note how the results describe Filipina women: beauty, girlfriend, ladies looking for love, romance and penpals, spouse, fiancé to Non-Filipinos, dating, friendship, sweet, sophisticated, innocent. Even Wikepedia states the word “beauty” next to the word Filipina.

The top ten results didn’t mention any of these words: strong, intelligent, ethical, creative, empowered, leader, dynamic, assertive, mentor, role model, inspiration, survivor, visionary.

As the only woman and Filipina in the City Council, I take on the challenge of changing the stereotyping of Filipina women every day. Some people, even the media, seem to want to perpetuate the image of Filipina women as passive, submissive, silent, and sweet, everything I am not. I am not afraid to speak out, ask the questions no one wants to ask, and vote with my conscience. But my actions defying the Filipina stereotype disturb and anger some people who write racial slurs on blogs and tell me to “keep my trap shut.” During public meetings, the current Mayor and the city manager speak rudely to me to the point of bullying, and they expect me to keep quiet and take it without comment. When I demand they treat me with respect, they are shocked and angry. Even the mainstream media recently depicted me as a petty, whiny woman in a tantrum over the current mayor getting the mayoral position, when the truth was I had reported a violation of the law. In the face of covert and oftentimes, blatant sexism, I have brief moments of giving up. But I remember the bigger picture that Marily had shown to me on the Summit of 2006.

Clearly, we Filipina women in the USA have much work ahead of us. We are all called upon for our purpose in life — whether we’re leaders or behind the scenes, in professions of medicine or law, business, in the arts, nonprofits, or in politics. We need to forge on, be the best we can be in our fields or endeavors, and change the perception of the world so that one day, not only will people appreciate us for our beauty. One day, when we google Filipina, we will be recognized as strong leaders, empowered women, role models and inspiration, intelligent and creative go-getters.

Thank you to Marily and Elena for their support and inspiration.

Myrna de Vera
Council Member, Mother, Wife, Sister

Next on the agenda: The Search for the Global Pinay 100!

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